A Czech publishing house has sparked outrage by selling mugs and T-shirts with Hitler’s portrait. The offer was quickly withdrawn following protests from the Jewish community and the general public, but, despite widespread condemnation, it is unlikely the incident will have legal consequences.
The Naše vojsko publishing house, which passed from state ownership into private hands in 2,000, specializes in history, military history and technical literature. It has sparked controversy on previous occasions, most recently in 2016 when it published Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Now, it claims that its decision to sell mugs and T-shirts bearing the portrait of one of the biggest mass murderers of the 20th century was perfectly in order. Head of marketing Stanislav Svoboda told Czech Radio the publishing house was merely responding to customer demand.
“We not feel that we are propagating Nazism. In such a case we would have to distribute such products for free on a street corner. But in this case people are buying a product they want for money they have earned. What they believe in or support has nothing to do with us. We are merely providing a product that was in demand.”
Although it is likely that some people will file criminal complaints over the affair, experts say it is unlikely that the incident will have legal consequences. Miroslav Mareš from Brno’s Masaryk University explains why.
“If we look at this situation from the juridical point of view, I have some doubts that it is a criminal act according to Czech law, because under Czech law you have to prove an intention; the intention to propagate or support a movement that violates human rights. And the question here is if it is possible to provide evidence that this publishing house really had the intention to propagate the neo-Nazi philosophy.”
The owner of the publishing house, Emerich Drtina, may be called to explain the matter if the Jewish community decides to file a criminal complaint, but Drtina is already playing down the incident. He told the news site idnes that the articles with Hitler’s portrait had been a PR stunt to attract attention and had been pulled because he himself did not like them.
Tomáš Kraus, secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic says the incident reflects the state of the society in the present day.
“It is more than 70 years since WWII ended and people no longer realize the terrible things that happened, what a terrible tragedy it was. So there is this fascination with evil which sometimes takes on a commercial form. And in this case commercial interests won out over ethical and moral values. Unfortunately that happens.”